Egypt uncovers 'Israeli spy ring'

  • Published
An Egyptian soldier near the border with Israel (November 2010)
Image caption,
One of the cases involved an alleged spy ring in the Sinai peninsula

Egyptian officials have charged a local businessman and two Israelis with recruiting agents to spy for Israel.

State prosecutor Hisham Badawi said Tareq Hassan was charged with harming Egypt's national interests. The two Israelis were charged in absentia.

It comes a day after Egyptian sources said an alleged spy cell, with four Egyptians and two Israelis, had plotted to kidnap tourists in the Sinai area.

It is unclear if the cases are linked. Israel has declined to comment.

Mr Badawi, the state prosecutor, said Tareq Abdel Razeq Hussein Hassan, a 37-year-old owner of an import-export firm, was arrested in August.

He is accused of accepting money from the Israelis in exchange for identifying Egyptians working for telecommunications companies in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, who could be recruited to spy for Israel.

Earlier this year, Charbel Qazzi, an executive at Lebanon's state-owned mobile phone company, Alfa, was accused of spying for Israel.

It is not known if there is a connection between the cases, says the BBC's Leana Hosea in Cairo.

Tourist plot

Earlier, the Egyptian media quoted unnamed security officials as saying that four Egyptians and two Israeli officers had been arrested for gathering information about tourists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian officials say the spies are accused of establishing communication offices in Egypt, Britain, Israel and Gaza and of plotting to kidnap Chinese and Japanese tourists in the Sinai desert.

The four were detained in May and authorities say they notified Interpol about the two Israeli officers, whose aim was allegedly to de-stabilise the region.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, but relations between the two neighbours are cool.

News about the longstanding cases was revealed as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak criticised Israel for causing a stalemate in peace talks with the Palestinians.

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